Queer Ephemera #2: The Spike

Queer Ephemera #2: The Spike


The Spike, “San Francisco Round Trip Raffle Ticket” 120, 11th Avenue, NYC

2 documents, a raffle ticket and a printed description. Edition size: 40.

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The Spike was a leather bar, which means it transcended being merely the kind of place where you could be served alcohol to the kind of place that made it possible to achieve heightened states, life-altering experiences, and find the kind of people you could count on better than family. 

There was a rich culture of artistic activity, too. Durk Dehner, who would go on to co-found the Tom of Finland Foundation, first came across drawings of Tom by Touko Kaaksonen that were circulated by patrons at the Spike. Doric Wilson, playwright, activist, and participant in the Stonewall Riots, staged his plays there while he worked as a bartender, including The West Street Gang (1977), whose plot centers around a young gay basher being caught and put on trial by patrons of the bar. The play was produced by Don Morrison, one of the owners of the Spike, who was also partners with Jack Fritscher, the leather luminary behind Drummer magazine. This raffle ticket in its own lurid way attests to the thrill of exchange (of expriences, ideas, & bodily fluids), opening up a road between the leather daddies of the west coast with those of the east. Like the Anvil, the Mineshaft, the Lure, Rawhide Bar, the Ramrod, the Cockring, and the Eagle, the Spike was an important place of communion in New York, and by the time of the AIDS crisis, a stronghold of community support and education about safe sex. It closed in 2000, but memories of its proximity to the piers, its parties, and its Sunday brunches live on.


Queer Ephemera aims to preserve & circulate printed works that have outlived the day to day events and spaces they describe. While the moments described in ephemeral items—such as postcards, newspapers, posters, flyers, matchbooks, business cards—have come and gone, their survival in the form of ephemera is important to understanding how queer and gender non-conforming people have lived in the past, how they kept in touch with one another on a day by day basis. In recovering lost worlds these documents are meant to create new potential: to inspire, to be copied, to be recreated, to be historically reenacted, imitated, channeled, altered, improved. Finally these documents are meant change the way you think of your own habitation in the world, to make you want to create your own archive, keep each slip of paper that speaks to something dear to you, and imagine the worlds of possibility they too will one day create for others.